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Big mistake: When addicts work in restaurants

I remember exactly where I was 17 years ago when I realized that getting sober meant I could no longer smoke pot. I was standing in the driveway at my house doing some mundane homeowner chore and it hit me upside the head.

You can’t smoke pot anymore.Marijuana Background

Alcohol was my drug of choice but pot was a close second. I hadn’t been sober for long – maybe a few weeks – when out of the blue the pot-ban popped into my head. I had been focusing so hard on not drinking that I hadn’t given much thought to smoking pot.

I had accepted that I would never drink again – one day at a time. But never smoke another joint? Are you kidding me? Maybe there was some kind of marijuana maintenance program that would allow me to keep smoking pot – just no alcohol.

But I knew that wouldn’t work. I had already tried that and failed. I quit drinking when I was 20 years old because…drum roll…I knew I was an alcoholic. So, I smoked non-addictive marijuana every day for 10 years. I convinced myself that I no longer had an “alcohol problem” and then started drinking AND smoking pot.

So, standing in my driveway just a few weeks sober, I realized this clean-and-sober lifestyle I had embarked upon was for real.

“Well, what the hell,” I thought. “In for a penny, in for a pound. Might as well quit smoking pot, too.”

And I did. It wasn’t easy, especially at concerts or weekends in the Florida Keys or watching Snoop Dogg videos. But I really wanted to quit drinking and I knew that if I kept smoking pot, I would pick up a drink eventually. One always leads me to the other.

Which brings me to what I see going on today: Addicts with a few months clean working in restaurants that serve alcohol. WTH? I know their primary addiction is to heroin but working in a restaurant that serves alcohol – especially in a restaurant in South Florida filled with partying, sunburned snowbirds – is not a good idea.

In fact, it’s a really bad idea and no one seems to blink an eye at it where I live in South Florida, the nation’s drug treatment epicenter.

There are a lot of reasons why newly recovered addicts should not work in restaurants that serve alcohol. Here are a few:

  • Alcohol is a mind altering substance. In fact, it’s probably the first mind-altering substance many heroin addicts started with. It doesn’t matter that it’s not your primary drug of choice – it’s still a drug. One drug leads to another.
  • You get paid in cash every night. Giving a newly clean heroin addict a wad of cash at 1 a.m. is not a good idea.
  • Anyone can get a job in a restaurant. There aren’t a lot of background checks. No one is going to ask about that two-year gap on your resume. In fact, no one is even going to ask for your resume. Consequently, there is a good chance that some of your co-workers are going to have criminal records and abuse or have recently abused drugs and alcohol.
  • You get off work and 1 a.m. and can’t fall asleep. Do people who work 9-5 go right home and go to bed? No. They watch Jeopardy and help their kids with homework. But what are you going to do when you get off work in the middle of the night? The only places that are open are bars and strip clubs.

Look, we all know addicts and alcoholics who have successfully managed to stay clean and sober while slinging margaritas and popping bottles of champagne. Good for them! But what if you are not one of them? Why risk it? Why tempt yourself?

What is your sobriety worth?



Big mistake: When addicts work in restaurants

Christine Stapleton

Christine Stapleton has been a journalist for 35 years. She is now an investigative reporter for The Palm Beach Post. In 2006, began writing a blog for PsychCentral called Depression on My Mind. Her latest blog, Addiction Matters, draws on her 19 years of sobriety and her coverage of the drug treatment industry in South Florida.

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APA Reference
Stapleton, C. (2016). Big mistake: When addicts work in restaurants. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 6 Jul 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Jul 2016
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